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A Probing Matter

Posted on 18 Mar 2024 @ 1:11am by Lieutenant Commander Camila Di Pasquale & Story Teller

2,141 words; about a 11 minute read

Mission: Return to Razmena
Location: USS Gaititithe || Deck 11
Timeline: June 17, 2390 || 0715 hours

With the weapons pod ripped away, the last accessible weapons storage was on Deck 11, just one level below the flight deck. The turbolift ride had been short, though no duration would have actually prepared its occupant for the condition of the level. It was clear a EPS line had ruptured along the corridor, thanks to the scarring on the left side. There were a few malformed crew members, dead obviously, scattered down the corridor. It was dimly lit, much like the rest of the ship so far, by red emergency lighting. If one tried to listen, they would hear the faint sounds of forcefields keeping other ruptures at bay.

Camila arrived at the weapons storage after making her way through the macabre corridor of death and tried to keep her face a stone mask. She looked at the three assembled pirates who were working on breaking into it. "How far have you got?" She asked as she stepped up to it after noting the looks on their alien faces. Suspicion of a Human in the Gamma Quadrant no doubt.

The trio of Rakhari looked up, and found the appearance of a human almost suspicious. If it hadn't been for the coordinator calling ahead, they might have thought she was Starfleet trying to pose as a pirate and retake the ship. "There's multiple levels of encryption, and no manual release. Right now, we're trying to fool the sensor."

"Did any of you find a Starfleet tricorder?" Camila asked. "My father was an Engineer before he and my Mom got sold out to the DMZ and ended up on the wrong world. I know how to fix and break into shit."

One of the Rakhari jerked a thumb at a couple nearby corpses. "Tricorders are a dime a dozen, right? Especially with all these Starfleet personnel about. Someone's gotta have one."

Camila steeled herself and went over to the nearest corpse and forced herself to look at its face out of respect before she turned her attention to the rest of the body. It had been burned badly and the smell made her want to swear off of pork forever. She saw a tricorder, but it wasn't functioning when she picked it up.

Two tricorder checks and three bodies later, the Security Chief carefully configured the tricorder to emit a signal to overrider the storage locker for the drones but not the torpedoes. She came back to the others and brought it up, looking hopeful that she wouldn't have to go back to the bodies. She activated it and sent the signal. "Here's to what being Maquis taught me," she said as the door released.

The door opened to a seemingly vacant room. One of the storage lockers had breached, spilling a collection of class one and two probes on the ground. In the corner, however, was a wounded Starfleet enlisted woman. One arm was a mangled mess, and the other weakly raised a phaser in the direction of the intruders. "Get out!" she cried, firing her phaser. The blast went wide, however, striking a meter away the entrance.

"You'll live longer if you give up now!" Camila yelled as she ducked back out of the door. "Anyone of you got a stunner?"

"We don't have time for this," declared the lead Rakhari. He pulled out a weapon and fired once. The blast landed squarely in the woman's chest, instantly stopping her protests. "Let's start collecting those probes."

Again, Camila fought to keep her expression neutral as she entered the room. She collected the woman's fallen phaser and put it in a baggy pocket in her pants, then scrumptiously slipped the woman's combadge into it as well after pressing it twice to deactivate it. She disguised the chirp by kicking one of the probes by seeming accident. "Sorry. I got it."

The woman was still breathing, thankfully, but without medical attention, there was a good chance she'd need a replacement arm. Not that the Rakhari cared. Two of them started to take a look at the probes. "Looks like there's a lot of class ones and twos. There's gotta be some threes and fours around here."

Camila forced herself to look away from the woman and hoped that her suffering would end soon or she got help, but the second wasn't likely to end. "What do you want with threes and fours"" she asked as she went to a cabinet and began to work on getting it open with the tricorder.

"Easy to reconfigure for climate change," the Rakhari female standing next to Camila said. "There's a colony near Jakarta whose atmosphere was messed up in an ion storm. Couple of well placed satellites will help dissipate the discharge."

Camila was surprised at the purpose that they were going to be used for. Weather satellite technology had been available in the Federation since well before she had been born, but they were forced to steal drones to convert here for the same purpose? She managed to get a storage unit open with a Type IV. "This should help. I've never seen one rigged for something like that."

"We've had to get creative out here," said the Rakhari. "Class ones and twos we've been using as comm bouys or sensor satellites. Ever since the Dominion pulled back and the Federation stopped coming, too much of us have been left to fend for ourselves."

The Security Chief nodded as she helped get the Class IV probe out. "Do you have a staging area to distribute? We did that during the Cardassian War to throw off the Federation when we were lucky enough to get supplies."

"Everything runs through Razmena," the Rakhari said, guiding the duo to an empty space in the middle of the room. "It'll take too long to carry these back to the flight deck. Toma, start setting up those pattern enhancers."

"You could rig those from ship to ship to ship to carry more and disperse it in case Starfleet shows up," Camila offered, remembering when the intrepid class ship had been stripped in the alternate universe and how Cadet turned Ensign Khan had suggested it.

"Rig what exactly?" asked Camila's helper while Toma began to set up the pattern enhancers. "Pattern enhancers in the cargo bay?"

"Not them, the cargo transporters on the ships," Camila said. "You can string them together from ship to ship and not have any one thing on any one ship." She explained how it was done as they worked.

"You'd have to be awfully trusting for something like that," the Rakhari said, pointing at the next Type IV. "Many of us do this to save our homes, and there's still plenty who come and try to take advantage of that."

"You can't depend on your neighbors or the Federation," Camila said as she moved to begin moving the next probe. "How long since anyone came to help?"

"Two years," replied Toma. "Stardate 65413.4, well, according to the Federation calendar. We had a Federation ship in orbit with some of our finest innovators on board."

"Yeah," replied the Rakhari woman, guiding the probe with Camila to the assembly area. "Then there was some strange transmission. The Federation ship went quiet, then exploded, taking our innovators with it."

Camila looked over at the two aliens as she did a bit of quick math in her head and her face paled a little. She looked away quickly and bent to her work. "That was about the time the Starfleeters imploded from within," she grunted. "Officer versus officer versus enlisted." Granted, most of the lower ranked officers had no idea what was going on, but following orders led to a lot of deaths.

"And they haven't been back since," Toma stated. "It's no secret the Federation wants to be out here. That... monstrosity they built orbiting New Bajor? It's all a dog and pony show. It's only a matter of time before the Dominion come."

"Do you come across many supplies or ships like this that you can clean out?" Camila asked. "This must have been quite a feat to take."

"Haven't seen anything like this before," Toma replied, activating the pattern enhancers. "Up until a few weeks ago, we just had someone feeding us convoy routes."

The Rakhari woman then interrupted, adding, "Then, all of a sudden, we find out there's some kind of partnership. No idea with who. All we know is that they catch the fish, like this Starfleet ship, and serve it up to us for the harvest."

"What's the catch?" Camila asked as she worked. "How does this other party pass it to you?" She was extremely curious herself, but kept her head down to her work.

"No catch," the woman replied. "I just know that they want to support our colonies. Especially those whose species are native to the Gamma Quadrant."

"Beware of Greeks bearing gifts," Camila said. "Sounds like they're gathering allies and then going to crush them under boot when the time comes for them to be a new Dominion. Still, better the ones that feed you first, huh?"

Toma shrugged, activating the last enhancer. "Anything's better than being left to starve because someone took your best and brightest." He took a moment to look at the pile the team had created. "Frak. This is more than our cargo space can hold. Let's stick with two of each class."

"My ship can take a couple more," Camila volunteered it on impulse. It was a chance to follow the pirates back and get in closer to Kelinor.

"Really?" asked the Rakhari woman. "You're human. Why would you want to help us more than you already have?"

"Human doesn't mean unsympathetic," Camila said. "My parents were given up on by the Federation for the sake of appeasing the Cardassians and were forced to be Maquis for the same reasons you're here now."

Toma grunted. "Life must be hell in the Alpha Quadrant if you're trying to make a path out here then." He exchanged looks with his sister before confirming, "All right. We're taking everything back to Razmena for distribution. It's a lot easier than trying to go from planet to planet."

"Better to live free than die oppressed," Camila said. "I have a better chance out here with no restrictions. I hope this new hand in the quadrant doesn't come with an iron glove." She finished packing the probe for transport.

The Rakhari woman looked up, spotting another open locker. "You think your hold has room for two more class threes? I can think of a half-dozen ways that the Paradan colony on Mycrlo Four can use them."

"I should be able to store them in the pattern buffer of the transporter if there's no physical room," Camila said as she finished what she was doing, wondering exactly how bad it was if the locals were being forced to use probes for a half a dozen other uses just to fill in what Federation worlds took for granted. She shook her head and looked at the Rakhari. "I can give you replicator codes for medicines, too."

The woman gave the blonde a quizzical look. "Why are you being so generous?"

"Don't mistake generosity for a desire to build a name for myself out here, and a profit if it comes my way," Camila said. "I'm human, as everyone keeps pointing out. That automatically means I'm not trusted, so if I have to do some volunteer be it. If someone mistakes me for weak, though, they'll discover that was their last mistake."

The group finished gathering the probes inside the pattern enhancing field. Toma pulled out a padd and began to perform some work on it. "We'll send forty percent of this load to our ship. It looks like your can easily hold the remainder in your aft compartment. You still good with following us back to Razmena?"

'I am," Camila said. She regretted that she'd have to leave Reynolds and Shay behind, but if she wanted to find out more about who was behind the attacks, she'd have to go with the pirates and leave a trail of bread crumbs.

"In the circle then," Toma said, making his final adjustments. He pointed to a particular section on the floor right next to him. "We'll materialize in the launch bay outside our ships, the cargo itself will be beamed into our ships. We won't wait for the rest of the groups to finish. After all, Starfleet will be here any minute."

Camila stepped into the circle and hoped she was making the right choice, but it was the only one she had. She only hoped it wouldn't cost her and the ship more than she was willing to pay.


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